Today was amazing. It started out a little rocky. Even though we slept 12 hours last night, it wasn’t enough. But part of that was likely the very hard beds (like very) and different pillows so my neck was killing me. I woke up with a headache. I thought breakfast would help, which it did a bit. The breakfast at our casa was great. Lots of fruit, crepes, tea, pastries, and frozen mango (or papaya?) juice.
We started a walking tour at 9am into the Vinales Nacional Parque. It was supposed to be three hours, but it was over 4. Our guide, Alexis, was incredible. So much fun! And he is a big baseball fan, which he said baseball is still the #1 sport here, but soccer isn’t far behind. We talked baseball and he was asking me if I had been to the Cardinals’ stadium and he asked if I had been there more than once. When I told him that I had been to 20 of the 30 stadiums and he was impressed. Then he told me that it was his dream to attend a MLB game. He told me this several times on the tour. I hope his dream comes true one day! We also talked Cuban baseball players (in MLB) and the World Series. Apparently his cousin plays for the Tigers’ Triple-A team and used to play against Aledmys Diaz when they both were still playing in Cuba.
Along the tour, we first stopped at a coffee farm. It was run by Antonio Banderas. Or at least that’s what he said! Antonio (definitely his real first name) had coffee beans freshly picked laying out to dry and then a section that were already dried. Then he showed us how to remove them from the shell or husk before roasting and grinding them. We were offered a cup of coffee if we wanted and sat in his house/yard.
Then we moved on to the tobacco farm. We learned all about planting, harvesting, and drying the tobacco leaves before fermenting them. The farmer then let us see and smell different kinds of tobacco leaves before rolling a cigar right in front of us. We were then given our own cigars to smoke and Mallory and I shared one. I smoked my first Cuban cigar!
From there we hiked up a small hill in the park to go down the other side and into the valley. That was a difficult climb for me because the trails were very muddy (both before and after) due to a heavy rain last night (also because I am out of shape). At this point, I was hot, sweaty, hungry, tired, and getting another headache. But the tour was not over! We stopped at a cafeteria where we got to drink a grapefruit. You read that right. We drank a grapefruit! They freeze the fruit instead of using ice and then cut off the top, stick in a straw, and drink! There appears to be very little liquid, but you just keep squeezing the fruit and more liquid appears. You also have to contend with seeds, but those things contain a lot of juice!
After the tour Mallory and I went to lunch and I was not feeling well. I probably could have slept another 12 hours. I truly did not know whether I was going to make it through the afternoon. But I had a cola (caffeine withdrawal was part of my problem, I knew) and some lunch, which I forced myself to eat. I started to feel a little better, so we went to get a wifi card (you have to pay for a username and password for either 1 hour or 5 hours and then find a wifi zone in order to use it). In line for the wifi card we saw Salome, who had been on our tour with us. She was traveling alone and we had told her that we were going to do the hop on-hop off bus after lunch and that she should join us. So we talked to her and she had decided to come with.
On the bus I started feeling terrible again and fell asleep briefly. Thankfully when we got off, at Cuevo de Indio, and started walking, I felt much better. This place was a cave that we walked through and then went on a boat inside the river in the cave. We exited the cave on the boat and waited for the bus to pick us up again.
Once back in town we had tapas for dinner. I tried empanadas! We had another mojito with dinner, but I couldn’t finish it because it was too strong. We had pumpkin custard for dessert because Thanksgiving! Then we went to a bar that was recommended to us, but there weren’t any tables. We asked the server and she checked, but instead of saying no, she just went up to a table of two and asked if we could also sit at the table. Which was super awkward, but we later decided she just sat the four white people together. They were Canadian, so we got along well. We had a great time chatting with them and getting to know them. It was a great night
Tomorrow after breakfast we have another taxi coming to take us to Havana for the next (and last) part of the trip! Very excited!